LIFE ON LOOP

JUNGWAN BAE & OAN KIM 

2010.10.23 - 12.11

Life On Loop is a collaboration project between architect/video installation artist Jungwan Bae and photographer/musician Oan Kim and their respective collaborators, VJ Ari Kim from Seoul Korea, and guitar player Benoît Perraudeau, from french indie rock band Film Noir.

Life On Loop tells a story through songs and images, amid a mayhem of vivid projections, colored lights, crumpled vinyl architectures and noisy soundscapes. It is yet a new attempt at creating the old Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, a Total poetic work of art that would involve music, video, architecture, performance and lights.

What makes this new endeavour different is the prioritizing of the creative process and especially the focus on the spatial set up,  that seems to precede all other elements of the work: narrative, music, images and even content. It is like starting to put up an opera production by building a set, and creating the opera around it.

Bae’s work is largely based on two things : the interaction of flat images projected onto 3-d structures, and the interaction of these projected images onto materials chosen for their ambiguity as transparent or reflective : vinyl sheets, nylon strings, reflective/see-through plastic, light fabric.

In the Life On Loop installation, inside a darkened room, video images are projected on and through clear vinyl crumpled in circular (loop) patterns that make up a 6ft-high 18ft-long bent wall that hangs in the center. The projected images are scattered through the different layers and sometimes seem to be floating in air. Another part uses a 7 feet tall steel frame holding several screens. These are made of rows of translucent strings attached horizontally, that look like several harps attached together and tilted at different angles. Images projected onto the strings, again take on 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional form depending on where you looking from. Sometimes all you see is light, the projected image being scattered by the strings; and the fact that all this is seen in darkness brings out an almost hallucinatory effect.

While Bae’s pieces are always architectural at their core, a geometrical play on lines and circles seemingly striving to pure form, they also always confront themselves to external ‘impure’ elements: music, narrative, and representational content.

Thus this play on the immateriality of the image in space is not essentially a questioning of our perception of space and images, but is integrated into a larger poetic expression, directed by what we could call Mood. By Mood we mean an artful synergy of perceptive categories to create emotions.

Music, narrative and colored lights diffracting through space make up an environment where architecture, just like in real life, is just an element among others. But Architecture in such a context brings a cold, formal, abstract anchor to an otherwise warm, emotional, representational outlook on artistic expression. We spectators, are put in a foreign environment, a dark landscape of geometrical steel frames, nylon strings and crumpled vinyl, and in the middle of that, we are given hints of representation of the world as we know it, with its stories, images, music and emotions.

These gaps in the representation, the fact that the different components of the piece (music, structure and images) are not connected by an overarching connecting principle, be it realistic or formal, leave room for interpretation and imagination, and leave the spectator with the sensation of both familiarity and strangeness one experiences during a first visit to an exotic location.

The success of this complex work relies on two things: the subtle balance of all its components, where no one element overpowers the other, and the exact calibration of their commonalities: formal, thematic, rythmic or emotional ressemblances between music, images or structure making up for their deliberate separateness.

In Life On Loop, the content (the narrative and emotional substance of the piece) rests largely on the music and  of Oan Kim and Benoît Perraudeau. The music alternates between straight-forward songs and abstract noisy soundscapes sometimes reminiscent of Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground or Deerhunter, and often seem to unfold like auditory representations of natural or urban scenes and landscapes: a sunrise on the beach or a subway platform at rush hour. This impression is re-inforced by the lyrics and the projected video images.

The central image of Life On Loop is a video clip of an old man walking back and forth slowly but steadily in an outdoor swimming pool. There is also an image of an old lady in the subway, looking around with jerky, nervous motions of the face; they are both solitary figures engaging in repetitive behaviours, the main difference being that one is active while the other is passive. Like two opposite figures of repetition: tenacity and compulsion.

These images in turn, find echoes in all the circular figures present in the structure, projections, and also in the constant use of loops in the music.

These same images find a realistic anchor in the figurative musical textures and in the lyrics of the songs that seem to tell the stories of these two characters.

But again, all the elements here are as much connected as they are separated from each other. The viewer is induced in an emotional state by a pervasive atmosphere which becomes his only certainty. One doesn’t know for sure that the songs are about this man and that woman, or what all these circular figures mean, or what the relation is between a compulsive old man and a steel structure that looks like a weird harp from outer space, but is constantly put in a position to choose, guess and make connections, and reminded that one creates the world of experience with all the senses.